Asheville Daily Planet, June 1, 2020

Decisions come to us in all sizes – from the life-changing big ones to the every-day small ones.  Some decisions can be postponed or even avoided altogether, but some are like crossroads: you take this way or that way. 

Some decisions are both – huge and unavoidable.  The American Revolution in North Carolina was of that kind.  Everybody had to take a side, Tory/Loyalist or Patriot.  The Revolutionary government required an oath of allegiance.  My five-greats-grandfather, Connor Dowd, made his decision.  Oh, did he! 

Dowd came from Ireland to Cumberland (now Moore) County, N.C., in 1760.  By 1775, he had accumulated thousands of acres of land on Deep River and a distillery, ferry, tannery, grist mill and 11 slaves.  He also had an enemy, his neighbor, Philip Alston. 

When the war broke out, Dowd followed his religious beliefs on pacifism and submission to established authority and did not support the Revolution.

You can understand his decision.  His denomination, “Separate Baptists,” disapproved, and besides, the status quo had been good to him.  But he didn’t stop at non-support of the war.  He gave massive in-kind support to the Loyalist militia before the Battle of Moore’s Creek in early 1776.  They lost badly.

Unfortunately for Dowd, the local leader of the Patriot militia was Philip Alston.  He arrested Dowd and held him without bail.

The irony is, Dowd was wavering on his Loyalist decision.  A letter from Revolutionary leader Robert Rowan to Governor Caswell protested Dowd’s arrest:  “I was much surprised on enquiry to hear of his being charged with treasonable practices, against the State, as from a conversation I had with him some time before, I was persuaded he intended taking the oath.”

Almost all his fellow Loyalists switched sides after the fiasco at Moore’s Creek, but Dowd could not.  His treatment by the Patriot militia drove him to a final, fateful decision.  He and his wife were now confirmed Tories.  When the war came to N.C. again, in 1781, Dowd equipped a Loyalist contingent, headed by his son, Oyen.  They were to join General Cornwallis on his drive north.  But they were ambushed by Patriot militia In the Battle of Lindley’s Mill on Cane Creek, and Oyen was killed.

After the war, Connor Dowd was deported to Ireland, and everything he owned was taken by his creditors to pay his debts from the ill-fated military expedition.  His wife and children went to live with relatives near Hillsborough.

He made his decisions, right or wrong, and he lived with the results.

Which brings us to us.

This November, a decision will come to every American voter that is just as momentous as that faced by the people of N.C. in the Revolutionary War.  No joke, no exaggeration.    

Do we want to give Donald Trump the power of the presidency for (at least) four more years?  We must choose yes or no.  It’s a crossroads decision.

Do we want a president who said:  “When somebody’s the president of the United States, the authority is total, and that’s the way it’s got to be”?  Do we?

Do we want a president who said to Vladimir Putin concerning journalists: that he’d like to “get rid of them. Fake news is a great term, isn’t it? You don’t have this problem in Russia but we do,”  Is that what we want?

Do we want a man as president who told his rich friends at Mar-a-Lago after the 2017 tax cut bill: “You just got a lot richer”?  Do we?

In short, do we want to continue the great American Experiment in democracy, or do we want to give ourselves over to a would-be third-world dictator? 

We decide individually, yes, but we contribute to the national decision – especially here in N.C.  If we here reject Trump, he will likely lose.  Our individual votes are that important.

I can’t help thinking that Connor Dowd spent the last seven years of his life in Ireland, living off a pension from Parliament for his Loyalist service, thinking and rethinking his decisions in the war.

We will, likewise, live with the results of November’s vote.  We must think very seriously how we, individually, decide.  We’re at a crossroads.